When Paul was giving his last instructions to Timothy, he said, “You know all about me.”
It’s easy to read that as an arrogant statement, I suppose, Paul holding up his excellence. It’s easy to read it as confidence or as some other adjectives I can’t think of right now.
But I think that Paul was being genuine. He was acknowledging that, after a couple decades of working and traveling together, Timothy knew all about Paul.
Timothy knew about Paul’s leadership and drive and devotion. And Timothy knew about Paul’s weaknesses, his struggles, his moments of mind-changing, his moments of confession.
We see hints of those things as we read through Paul’s story and his letters. He asks for help. He points out how much he rests in how God leads him. He acknowledges that his life, with zeal, was going in exactly the wrong direction-a young scholar trying to make a reputation by destroying a vulnerable new religious group. And he acknowledges that he had to change.
He worked hard. He got beat up. He said “ouch”. He got in arguments. He got frustrated. He got sarcastic. He apologized. He got sad. He worried.
The picture we have of Paul, the picture Timothy knew better than we can, is of a person, not perfect, but honest. Not perfect but faithful. Not perfect but genuine.
I often talk with people who talk about not measuring up to some standard. They are desperately concerned about what people will think, about what God will think. I remind them gently that they are simply human. And that being genuinely human means acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses, making the most of the latter and confessing the damage we sometimes do with the former.
And I remind them-and myself-that people who love us appreciate us more than they expect our perfection.